Friday, October 24, 2014

Power Plays

Among the many ways power may be seen and experienced, consider latent energy brought into play to effect some kind of work.  In order top do so, the energy has to be transformed from latent to active and direct.  Thus power becomes a force being exerted to accomplish a desired result.  Or effect.

In the dramatic sense, power is a considerable mass of influence used by one individual to direct another.  Power is also the potential for influence over a group by another group, an organization over un- or dis-organized individuals.

Some power is measured in terms of theoretical horses, the effect of one horse doing X amount of work within a specific span of time.  When you were first introduced to the subject of physics, you recall taking pleasure in being able to understand how power related to specific acts, the amount of energy required to lift or move or push an object of X weight over a distance of Y in Z amount of time.

When you were exposed to the subjects of drama, psychology, motivation, conscience, and ethics, you were thrilled to realize how something as insignificant on its face as a nod or lift of an eyebrow could induce character X to do Y.  

This became more fascinating yet when you realized you'd been nudged, urged, threatened, wheedled, coaxed, and driven by conscience to do certain things, not do certain others, and to lie about things you did or did not do.  You were on to something.  You knew it had to do with power.

Somewhere along the way, you began to observe how implied and expressed power drove story, in effect caused story to do X amount of work on characters Y and Z within the framework of an act or a chapter or an entire short story or an even longer narrative such as a novella or a novel.

A scene may well begin with Character A having some degree of power over Character B, which proves useful in Character A ordering Character B to do something with the reasonable expectation that Character B will comply.  Watching such activity as a reader or audience, you find yourself growing uncomfortable on behalf of Character B for the plight in which Character B appears trapped.  You also dislike Character A for bullying, for undue use of power or influence.  If this circumstance is orchestrated well by the author, you begin in time to resent Character B for not taking a stand.

By happenstance, plan, or pure guile, Character B discovers a way to bring Character A's influence to an abrupt end.  We delight in seeing the realization come over Character A; what was once power is now trivial.  What once produced results and the atmosphere of subservience is gone.  This change of power is a major factor in certain types of humor, where the dramatic effect is reached when Character A can no longer gain the bully's advantage and now topples before our eyes.

Parity does not keep story going for long, unless, before our eyes, we see collusion and conspiracy to impose levels of power.  How quickly the shift of parity and a comfortable system of power shifts in the opening moments of Macbeth.  How quickly Shakespeare dramatizes a shift in power between he who was once Prince Hal and Prince Hal's mate of the carouse and roister, Sir John Falstaff.  What a complete, utter shift of power:


    My king! my Jove! I speak to thee, my heart!


    I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers;
    How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
    I have long dream'd of such a kind of man,
    So surfeit-swell'd, so old and so profane;
    But, being awaked, I do despise my dream.
    Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace;
    Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape
    For thee thrice wider than for other men.
    Reply not to me with a fool-born jest:
    Presume not that I am the thing I was;
    For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
    That I have turn'd away my former self;
    So will I those that kept me company.
    When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
    Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,
    The tutor and the feeder of my riots:
    Till then, I banish thee, on pain of death,
    As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
    Not to come near our person by ten mile.
    For competence of life I will allow you,
    That lack of means enforce you not to evil:
    And, as we hear you do reform yourselves,
    We will, according to your strengths and qualities,
    Give you advancement. Be it your charge, my lord,
    To see perform'd the tenor of our word. Set on.

Even after so stern a reprimand, Falstaff tries to maintain the fiction of the past, but the damage is done.

The physics of drama and story were there all along, requesting your indulgence.  Power is action, not mere discussion of it.  Power is the ghost of the king, directing his son, Hamlet, to avenge his death.  Power is Hamlet agreeing to do so.

All these years, there before you, waiting to be heeded.  You tried to listen.  You wished to listen.  But you were as distracted as Odysseus' sailors when they heard the singing of the Sirens.  You heard attitude, tone, description; you allowed yourself to intervene as the writers of past centuries did in the good faith of following the conventions of their times, where the author could, with the wave of a hand, bring the story crashing to a halt for a paragraph or two of brilliant writing.  Hello Aldous Huxley.  Hello, Thomas Hardy.  Hello, George Eliot.

You were in with the best of company, but you were dazzled by their brightness and the conventions of their day.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


You shouldn't be doing this, but here it is.  The "this" you shouldn't be doing is in effect showing favoritism, allowing someone in a line that is by its real nature, growing long and impatient.  You reach "this" point with some regularity, when you are in the helpless deliciousness position of being about a third of the way into a new project.

The position is helpless because you cannot go any faster.  Sometimes, you cannot go at all, and so, instead of going forward, writing ahead, you write about the project, what you hope to learn from it, what you hope to put into it, perhaps even how this will help you move a plateau or two above where you are at the moment.

The position is delicious because, seeming sadist that you might well be, you are pappy to be a third into the present idea, so rooted in it that you find yourself having dreams about it in which you are solving problems you were not aware of in waking time.  

There is additional deliciousness in knowing the project will be useful to at least this audience of one which is you.  Yes, it is delicious because you are writing it for yourself, hopeful of being able to vault up a plateau or two toward having better control over the conversational sense of ease you hope to have with future projects.

By a mixture of accident and purpose, you've become yet another thing you'd never thought to become, a historian.  In similar ways to the other important accidents in your life, you had no idea that your eclectic tastes in fiction would take you anywhere close to being an historian.

Even when you were an English major, reading assignments off the course syllabi, you were keeping up with contemporary as well as becoming distracted by some of the non-assigned works from the assigned authors

Thus you real all of Tobias Smollet you could get your hands on, curious to see if you could learn something of the more conventional ways of narrative that you'd learned from reading an epistolary novel of his that, in effect, opened you to the exciting possibilities of multiple point of view (which well prepared you for Wilkie Collins's stunning The Moonstone to the point where you recognized him as a forerunner of a favored twentieth century mystery writer, Salvadore Lambino, aka Ed McBain).

All this one-step-forward, two or three to the sides approach caught up with you and you were not only able to understand point of view and the men and women who pioneered its evolution, you were able to see steps along the way, shifts, as it were, from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon to Homo Habilus, and so it goes.  Or went.

Here comes a digression in the form of Fowler's Modern English Usage, a comprehensive and witty guide to the use of words, tropes, memes, punctuation, and convention, a guide you were well aware of even before you became aware of the famed, iconic CMOS or Chicago Manual of Style, the preferential usage guide for most of the general trade books published in the U.S.

Somewhere along the way, you'd come across an Americanized version of the Fowler, edited by Margaret Nicholson.  Wonder of wonders, you still have it.  You not only used it to get you in and out of issues of clarity and meaning with your writing, you admired its dictionary-like format.  "Someday," you told yourself, when thinking how you'd like to write what was essentially a series of alphabetized essays, some quite long, some made even more witty by their brevity and edginess.  "Someday."  

In time, someday became today; you began writing such a book, which became The Fiction Writers' Handbook, a nonfiction format you admire because the segments are as long as you were able to make them, no longer nor shorter.  To be sure, your editor suggested deleting the occasional paragraph here, or adding one or two there.  The publisher went so far as to suggest at least two additional essays.

Now, there is this, wishing to gain admittance into the line of things already waiting to be done.  "This" is a list of one hundred novels which you believe most writers ought to have read.  Using them, you will demonstrate scenes, tools, techniques by which their remarkable authors achieved remarkable effects, causing them to be one hundred novels to be read, reread, and studied for hints of how they grew from notions and ideas such as "this" one, into the trustworthy treasure they have made themselves over the years since their appearance.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Encyclopedia Britannica Approach to Learning

Some of the recent things you've been saying and thinking about conventional wisdom have captured a brief time in your life involving The Encyclopedia Britannica, your experiences with it, and what may have been yet another shove you were given toward being an iconoclast.

From about the time of your years in junior high school and well into high school, thus the years after the ending of World War II, The Encyclopedia Britannica  was as much the subject of middle class family discussions as pianos.  Middle class families, wishing their children to have all possible advantages, were subject to significant advertising and peer pressures.  Your parents were no exceptions.  There were numerous occasions on which they led up to questioning you.  Each time they began, you were reminded of friends in similar situations, being asked if there were things they wanted to know about sex. 

You'd already had enough experience with using the Encyclopedia Britannica to know that citing it in some of your papers would get comments such as "Good" or even "Good info," and on a few indications even, "Nice source" but if you stopped at that one source, two consequences were immediate.  You'd rarely get a grade on the paper higher than a B and, more important, your own sense of curiosity about the subject would not have been fulfilled.

Even though you'd been skipped ahead a full year, you were entering a time when you didn't think much of what you thought of as your intelligence.  Nor were you satisfied with, as you complained to a counselor, "the way things were going."  Of course the counselor would ask you to expand on what you meant by "things," and some of your answers had to do with not being satisfied with the way your education was fitting together in a way where various subjects seemed to relate the way, for example, elements had affinities for certain other elements, or where there did not seem to be specific things you could study that would help you understand how to be a writer.  

You already had friends who understood they wished to become lawyers or doctors, and one even wished to move on toward the goal of becoming a psychiatrist.  Still another confided to you that he was going to give college a wide berth and go, instead, to live and study with Frank Lloyd Wright in order to become an architect.  One pal even said as soon as he graduated, he was off to join a band, hopeful of becoming a musician.  (You looked him up recently, discovering he'd been with at least two bands you admired, had experienced a change of heart about instruments, and was now, 2014, a cellist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.)  

You had no such focus.  You had, and still have, a contemporary book showing you how to write adventure stories and how to plot mysteries.  You had, and still have a book called The Favorite Works of Mark Twain, which was a gift for your coming-of-age celebration at age thirteen, and another book, which you bought used for twenty-five cents at a used book store, Volume II of Mark Twain's first memoir, Roughing It.  Beyond those three books, you were pretty much on your own.  

In retrospect, you argue that although you went on to the university, your most cherished university was the used book store near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, and one other you discovered by accident on Santa Monica Boulevard, but only because it was near Spider's Pool Hall.

The Encyclopedia Britannica was at that time a respected source of information, its advisory panels packed with notable scholars.  Yet another expensive set of books offered a multi-volume, matched set of the so-called Great Books of Western Civilization.  You were asked if you wished this as a parental contribution toward your education.  You were stretching the matter somewhat, but you were able to say you'd read many of those books, going so far as to call parental attention to some of the shelves in your room.  "See.  Aristotle.  And look, over here.  Karl Marx."  And so it went.  You are still thankful to your father for asking, "Read, yes.  But what about understood, eh, wise guy?"

Conventional wisdom was close to hand for most of your life, sometimes too close, too tempting, too likely to be the reason for you going no farther in your quest to identify something you could not articulate, something the then equivalent of The Holy Grail.

Until you began, years after the fact to recognize the problem, Conventional Wisdom had become your stopping point rather than your starting point.  Conventional wisdom did not make you as curious as, say, your ineptness in Spider's Pool Hall or even later, when you were in gainful employ as a published writer and a salaried editor, still baffled by the intricacies of that most challenging table of all at Spider's.  No, not the pool table nor the snooker table.  Rather the table with no pockets.  The billiards table.

Gene was a short, overweight man who covered a growing gut by not tucking in his sports shirt.  He seemed to dance about the billiards table with a weightless grace, a man set on solving problems.  You watched him for hours.  After a time, he confided in you.  "If you'd paid more attention to this,"  he said, chalking his cue, sighting, then executing a three-cushion shot, "you'd not have fucked up geometry."

It was not three-cushion billiards that brought you to geometry, rather it was designing books, fitting blocks of text, arranging for margins and gutters and heads and feet.  Not that you had anything against three-cushion billiards, only that you loved making books look like books and found the way to do so, time after time after time.

Such wisdom of convention as there is needs to be observed, tested, questioned.  As you right this, resources you, as an avid follower of the Dick Tracy comic strip, could not imagine, lurk.  There are some in your pocket, some on your desk, some on your dining room table.  The information to which these devices provide access is often flawed, sometimes downright wrong.  Persons are quoted as having said things, but in fact have not said those things.  Even then, the things they have been quoted as saying are questionable if not downright wrong.  

Other individuals say things not in the sense or spirit of peer review, things of such questionable validity as to expand the meanings of fanciful.

Conventional wisdom is the latest victim of the loss of intrinsic value of information, of logic, of the ability of humanity to connect things of apparent dissimilar nature.

You have your copy of Writing Magazine Fiction, The Favorite Works of Mark Twain, Volume I of Roughing It.  You have a vast world of cynicism, an eye for mischief, an appetite for adventure, and a curiosity to discover how far you can see beyond the horizon of conventional wisdom.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Conventional Wisdom

There are conventions, and there is wisdom, but so far as you've been able to see, there is no conventional wisdom that can be agreed upon.   Conventions are agreed-upon or legislated behavior, such as the drivers' seats in American cars being on the left side, you having Friday morning coffee with a particular group at a particular place, and Sunday breakfast somewhere altogether else. 

Convention is using the serial comma in books or not using it in magazines and newspapers.  In American text, the punctuation marks go inside the quotes, but UK conventions call for the commas and other stuff to go outside the quotes.  "Right?"  "Right you are".

Convention suggests a form of accord among a defined group that is often willing to take their accord to extremes, even to the point of investing their accord with some divine inspiration, for example Martin Luther nailing his edict to the door of a church.

In considering this, you are reminded of your concept of story, which now becomes transmogrified to two conventions, each believing there is only one source of divine inspiration, each believing it is the one.

Wisdom is another matter, every bit as idiosyncratic as the previous examples and permutations of conventions.  In your experience, wisdom is often attributed to the elderly, an acquired trait, a product of considerable trial and error, thus by implication the result of looking at and then attacking problems.  Good luck with that.

From early years, we are subject to inspirational propaganda about the virtues of wisdom, where it is to be found, and how to acquire it.  In retrospect, you can see where your parents had ample measures of wisdom.  

You were not always wise enough to see that.  This means wisdom, like conventions, is in constant flux.  What appears to be wisdom at one point may turn out to be something altogether different at other times, different enough to appear unwise, dumb, perhaps even dangerous.

There have been times when you made decisions based on your immediate perception that you were being wise.  In yet other instances, you dithered to the point of considering yourself untrustworthy.  Such considerations do not add to an overall sense of confidence.  This leads to the great existential question:  Is it wise to be confident?  

Back in time, when the Greeks were running all over philosophy the way Bill Gates and Steve Jobs ran over computers and their operating systems. you could have your choice of an operating system based on your inherent trust of things and persons or such other approaches as being standoffish with what the French would call sang froid running through your veins.  Leave it to the French to come forth with a term for cold blood that sounds like a variety of wine.

You have chosen as your default positions being unconventional and lacking in wisdom, thus not wise, which seems to you to relate to making sane, conventional decisions.  Your preference is to make unconventional decisions that in fact warm up the blood, get you to a point where you can barely control your enthusiasm long enough to write it down.

One of those Greek philosophers was, in your opinion, nailing the matter when he, Heraclitus, wrote about the eternal flux of Things, by which you believe him to have meant Reality.  You cannot, he wrote, bathe in the same river twice, much less take the same bath twice, nor can you make the observation about it more than once without becoming repetitive and, even worse, derivative.

At your current stage of relative wisdom, you believe it is not a good plan to copy yourself.  If you once did something well, nice to think about it in retrospect, then try to do something else at a different degree of wellness.

You also believe it a good practice to question anything of apparent conventionality before embracing it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Dad?" Yeah, Dad. That Dad.

By the time you chose your career path, you already had many favorite writers among whom to chose.  Some of these were still alive, turning out, as writers do, the occasional short story or essay in addition to a new novel.  

Some of these writers were individuals you wanted to keep up with, in order to read their new work.  The thought never occurred to you to engage in outright competition, much less think you were then or were going to become better than they.

Even when Philip Roth published his stunning breakout work, the novella Goodbye Columbus, which was published with three of his shorter stories, the effect on you was a serious bout of envy.  You were of about an age, which was bad enough; he had ever so much more of a grip on narrative voice and ways of converting concepts into characters.  

Your funk lasted about a month, during which you did a good deal of what you thought F. Scott Fitzgerald would have approved of, which is drinking great quantities of gin and vodka.  When that got you nowhere other than financially depleted and grouchy from hangovers, you got back to the only things you could think of in your attempts to catch up with Roth.

It was your good fortune rather than your good sense that arrived to get you out of that problematic stage.  By increasing your attack on reading and writing, you were so distracted from your supposed competition that he'd managed to produce two or three more books you hadn't the time to read because you were too busy trying to keep up with yourself.  

Your good fortune was the ultimate reading of his latest books and recognizing he was no longer someone you should compete with, rather someone you should read with scrupulous care to see how he arrived at such a compelling narrative voice that he could win you over to believing the things his characters said and felt.

Many emerging writers of your time were aware of the influences of Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot.  Again, fortune served you well. You didn't "get" Eliot for some time to come. You'd already set out to read the entire Hemingway works, looking for themes, trying to develop a vision similar to his elliptical approach where he led you right up to the edge of where he wanted you to feel, then pushed you right in after his characters.  "Oh, you mean subtext," am instructor you greatly admired said of your discussions of Hemingway.  

Since this instructor was being published by Knopf and his short pieces were appearing in The New Yorker,  you allowed yourself to be led away from Hemingway after one last fling at his most recent work, The Old Man and the Sea.  Given your attendance at a campus of the University of California with a large, visible C marker on one of the nearby hills, you undertook your prank with a piece called The Old Man and the C.

It did not occur to you that a classmate of yours was who he was until he told you one afternoon, "Dad liked your piece."


"Yeah.  Dad.  We got back on speaking terms, which means I send him letters and he answers them, so I sent him your piece and he said it was pretty good stuff."  Once again you were made aware of how, for all your reading and attempts to acquire sophistication, naivete stalked you with a particular vengeance.  Your classmate's name was Hemingway.  You knew that well enough, but there was no further connection until.  Until.

During those times, you were still propelled by the enthusiasm of  being youngest.  Once again, accident and good fortune spared you from being completely insufferable.  You also have occasion to use the word "callow" when you communicate with some old friends from those days, of course using the term in reference to yourself.

The good fortune got you into the accident whereby you became pretty good at being an editor without having to go to New York or Boston, the major places one went to to take on this craft.  By the time you'd got to New York, you'd earned the necessary craft to have dropped a few pounds of callow and picked up a few of such things as empathy, respect, and a significant sense that the things you thought were things one could do alone.

And there's the message, isn't it?  Any craft has to be learned, practiced, investigated, accommodated.  You're aware of particular editing skills and skills in your composition.  Because you're aware of them, you don't get to walk away without thinking about them.  Everything has to be honed.  Everything has a specific time before you can rely on it, use it as a tool instead of admiring it in someone else.

The list of writers you're crazy about has grown in exponential units over the years, dedicated men and women who have earned their way to the point where they can use their craft as muscle memory.

The more of these you read, the more you're aware of this:  Every time you're assigned a project to edit, every time you start a new book or story or essay, it's as though you're having to start fresh, because this one, whether your own writing or your editing of someone else's writing is fresh and new, isn't it, and to keep up, you have to be fresh and new as well.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Where did you go?" "Out." "What did you do?" "Nothing."

 From your middle teens until you moved from your parents' home, you were an unwitting but energetic participant in a drama centering on when or if you'd come home.  Beyond a certain point and age, probably around age eighteen, your interests in adventures tended to override the responsibility ingrained in you by your parents to let them know.

This is no doubt one metric to apply in the matter of when a chick should leave the nest.  You can appreciate your parents' concerns all the more in the retrospect of knowing individuals whose parents cared less than your parents or perhaps did not care at all.  Adding to the index of retrospective wisdom is the array of conditions you were in when you did come home at whatever hour you indeed came home.

Only on rare occasion did you leave with the intention of drinking more than was prudent or smoking more than wise, or combining such teen-aged chemistry as Dexedrine, pitchers of beer, coffee, and brandy.

Lest you paint yourself too deep into the corner of debauchery, there were times when the only beverage consumed was coffee or such bad wine that a glass of it was enough for the rest of the evening.  These were times of excited, flamboyant conversation, the conversation of the young, the idealistic, the  ambitious, discussing themes and content of works we hoped to write at some time in the immediate future but which had not yet been committed to paper.  These were also times when you were just smart enough to shut up and listen when in the company of older men and women who were in fact putting words on paper that found their way into publication or performance.

And there were the hours in which you listened to conversations of another sort, of jazz mostly, but sometimes of the classical.  These "conversations" more often than not took place early in the morning, say one or two or three.  It is not so much a fact that jazz relates best to the later, darker hours as it is a fact that jazz conversations seem to play out later in the day because the bright, sharp hours are the times for practice.

With no children of your own, you did not experience the "It's midnight, do you know where your kids are?" syndrome, therefore it might seem disingenuous to say you had cats and dogs who waited for you to come home and seemed to you then, and in fond memory now, to regard you with a reproof suggesting they had a greater interest in you than dinner. Nor will it help much to say you had three bluetick hounds who, on any occasion you took them for a walk of consequence, might catch a scent, then be gone for upwards of two days.

A pet that has gone missing seems to wrench you in ways you'd thought behind you, reminding you again how a boundary is trespassed when you give more than dinner to an animal friend, you give them a part of your confidential self and feelings you reserve for the special few.  

You told your  special  blue tick hound friend, Edward, on two particular occasions when you thought you'd never see him again, that he'd all but broken your heart.  He, noble and irascible fellow that he was, looked at you as if to chide you for your sentimentality, then to assure you that you'd not seen anything yet.  Indeed, when he did not live out a normal life span, you understood beyond grief for the normal, the grief for the missed potential.

There are times when you are up nights, waiting for a story or concept or idea to come home.  For all you know, it is off on a carouse with some great friends or merely wishes to remain alone, or perhaps has taken the tack that it wishes to hide from you because you are making too much of it, attaching too much to it.

You've had the "Where did you go?"  "Out."  "What did you do?"  "Nothing."  dialogue with your parents, and with a chorus of animals.  You try your best to be matter-of-fact with your current cat, Goldfarb, and you think you're successful.

You think you know how your parents felt because even then you were in the formative stages of wanting substance to those stories that did not come, or, when they did, seemed more like excuses than story.  At some point, you were able to articulate this process to the point where you saw it first as a process, then, with deeper consideration, as The Process.  Just as you did when you went out at night or Edward did when he caught a scent,

The daytime hours are for practice.  The Process sends you out at night, during the intimate, dark hours where dreams and intensities and visions coalesce in the early morning mist.  There is often no telling how long you will be gone or what condition you will be in or if your heart will be broken.

You will get home when you get home.  But you need coffee and early to work.  No matter what, the daytime hours are still for practice.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dealing with Your Interior Edwin Booth

The second best thing is to come to the table feeling pretty much the way you did this morning, leaving the studio with neither hard cash nor your wallet and its supporting cast of credit cards.  True enough, you were well enough known at your venue of choice, and truer still, you could--and did--sign the tab for your breakfast.  But the feeling is a scary one, causing you to reflect on things before your coffee was prepared and your oatmeal put on the boil.

Suppose you sit to compose with nothing in the tank, no vision, no irritation at some human foible, only instead the sense you are not known here, the sense of wonder that you could have ever thought to have written a short story or essay much less a novel or a book length essay.

Being caught out that way makes you think of the close relative of sitting at your desk or chosen workplace to begin composition or, better still, to continue something you'd started yesterday or, best case scenario yet, something you'd been grappling with for some time, on occasion it getting the better of you, on other occasions, you managing a page or two of stature, pages that hold up under scrutiny and remind you of the inherent promise of the project in the works.

The process is not rational.  In one of your pocket-sized notebooks, you have a list of the next five books you'd hope to write.  This notebook is no surprise to you.  On frequent occasion, you consult it, looking for the same kinds of energy you get when listening to and absorbing music.  

The ideas all seem sound, placed with firmness against your vision of yourself as a writer.  But there are days when these five projects seem well beyond your reach or, worse still, beyond your interest.

You tell yourself at the outset that with these five books, undertaken, then completed, you will surely have found at least one more to add to the list.  Even if the answer is no, these five are it, there is some satisfaction in knowing you're not the loafer the sceptic of your worst dreams insists you are.

So you begin, cumbersome sentence on the screen or notepad, followed by a sentence of a bit less cumbersomeness, until there is a page in which one or two sentences, all but simple declarative sentences, have a jaunty resonance.  This is all it takes to urge you to risk another of the turgid, sclerotic sentences.  

If your luck holds and you don't put too much thought into the process, the cumbersomeness seems to be in retreat.  You can now risk reading an entire page, hopeful of finding the flutter of life within the paragraphs.

These are the daily equivalents of driving to work in a city with dense traffic.  You live there, the traffic is, yes, dense, and so you have to put up with it.  Worst case is that some days, you'll be a bit late arriving to work.  If you had to look back to recall a time where the go-to-work traffic of writing was so dense that you missed an entire day of work, you'd have to rely on guesswork.

Days when you are well launched into a continuing task are your first choices unless, as you noted earlier, some extreme aspect of you--with good reason, you call him your inner Edwin Booth--jumps up before you, shouting "Sic semper tyrannus," as Booth was said to have done before shooting President Lincoln.

The process devolves to a statement you gleaned from a textbook in Psychology 1.  "The organism thinks well of itself."  In your case, even if there is a momentary hiatus from the esteem and energy needed to undertake composition, reading a few pages will often cause you to wave Booth away with a dismissive, "Oh, come off it, man."

Even if the pages don't work, a more reliable person than booth will appear.  "You might want to rethink these pages in the following ways," he will suggest.

And you will see what he means.